During Lula’s government, Brazil was the country that gave the most H1N1 vaccines

Former minister Alexandre Padilha recalls that 80 million Brazilians were vaccinated in just three months

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
H1N1 vaccine being administered in São Paulo - Agência Brasil

The legacy of the vaccination campaign implemented by the Unified Health System (SUS), in the midst of the H1N1 outbreak between 2009 and 2010, should be used as an example by the Jair Bolsonaro government against the current covid-19 pandemic. This is the opinion of Workers’ Party federal congressman Alexandre Padilha, the then Minister of Political Affairs in the Lula administration, who would later become Health Minister between 2011 and 2014.

In 2010, through its public health system, Brazil was the country that applied the most H1N1 vaccines on its citizens in the world. Influenza A was considered a global pandemic until August of that year, and killed 2,100 Brazilians.

Immunization against the H1N1 virus began in March of 2010 and was intended to prevent a "second wave" of cases during the fall and winter.

At the time, the Ministry of Health established five priority groups for the vaccination campaign: the indigenous population, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, children between six months and two years of age, and young people between 20 and 39 years old. Unlike covid-19, the elderly were not considered to be at risk.

"Brazil has all the financial, institutional and technical conditions to implement a mass vaccination plan for everyone. During the H1N1 pandemic, I was [Lula's] Minister of Health, and in 2010 more than 100 million people were vaccinated. Of these, 80 million were inoculated in just three months", emphasizes Padilha.

"We have the appropriate public institutions, we have the tradition, we have our public healthcare system SUS, we have researchers who know about vaccines and we have all the necessary resources. The problem is that the Bolsonaro government is against the national immunization program", criticizes the former minister.

2019, the first year of the Bolsonaro government, was also the first year in this entire century that Brazil did not reach its vaccination goals for children.

Although the president authorized R$ 20 billion for the purchase of vaccines, Bolsonaro continues his efforts to give the inoculation bad publicity. He himself said that he does not intend to get vaccinated, and in October, he promised not to authorize the use of the "vaccine from China" - a derogatory term used to refer to the CoronaVac, produced by the São Paulo based Butantan Institute in partnership with Chinese manufacturer Sinovac.

Edited by: Marina Duarte de Souza